Twenty-one million people have a master’s degree in the U.S., as of the year 2018. That number has doubled since 2000 when just over 10 million people held this degree, according to data from the U.S. Census.

To earn a master’s degree, the first step for many students is to take GRE. The GRE is the entrance exam for graduate school, similar to the SAT or ACT being the entrance exam for a bachelor’s degree. 

For those thinking about prep classes for the GRE, we’ve created this guide that explores everything you should know about the process. We’ll cover: 

  • What’s on the GRE?
  • How is the GRE scored?
  • Why do you need a GRE prep course?
  • Who needs a GRE prep course?
  • Things to consider before selecting a GRE prep course
  • How to choose a GRE prep course
  • Frequently Asked Questions About the GRE
  • The best GRE prep courses to consider

What’s on the GRE?

The GRE evaluates a student’s readiness for graduate-level education. The test has three sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. This timed test is adaptive, which means your score in previous sections influences the difficulty of upcoming questions. The test takes almost four hours to complete and is administered at a testing center.

How is the GRE scored?

The grading of tests like the GRE can be complicated, but this particular test is scored in one-point increments on a scale of 130-170. The Analytical Writing section is scored separately by a computer and by a human on a scale of 0-6. 

Why do you need a GRE prep course?

For students or parents considering a GRE prep course, there are several reasons to go through with one. Here’s a look at why people opt for a prep course: 

Elevate your score

To get into the school of your choice, students might need to achieve a certain test score. To do so, a prep course is the best way to go. 

Explore your graduate school choices and know what kind of score you need before selecting any prep course. It’s important to have a goal in mind.

Get a refresher

For people who want to return to school after being out in the workforce for a while, a prep course is ideal. The course can help people get reacquainted with standardized testing and provide the most up-to-date course materials to succeed. 

Know what the test is testing

A prep course helps people know what the test is looking for and how the test is set up to do that. Learning the test’s structure, kinds of questions, and what it feels like to take a timed test is all part of doing well on the real exam. 

Materials are all in one place

There are free GRE resources online or books that can be borrowed from a library, but prep courses are designed to offer high-quality study materials that are in one place. Rather than scouring the internet for practice exams or study guides, it’s easier to log into one portal and work through ready-made material. 

Who needs a GRE prep course?

For students wondering if a prep course is right them, here’s who typically takes the courses: 

Students looking to score well

Whether your dream school requires a certain test score or you just want to do well to have as many options as possible, a prep course is for you. 

Students who struggle with tests

There are some students who simply aren’t good test-takers. Rather than shy away from this test, students who get test-day jitters say preparing for the exam calms their anxiety and gives them a chance to focus on the task at hand. 

Students who are willing to do the work

Prep courses require students to set aside time to study. Attending classes is part of the process, but working at home is part of the process too. 

Things to consider before selecting a GRE prep course

When you’re ready to select a GRE prep course, here’s what to consider: 

Commitment level

To get the most out of a prep course, students have to put in the work. Going to class or attending an online course is just the start, students will have homework and will need to study. 

Schedules

A prep course takes time, so students with busy schedules may need to make changes to accommodate prep courses. It might mean better time management skills or it might mean eliminating an extracurricular activity.

In-person or online courses

There’s a variety of GRE prep courses available. Some are scheduled, in-class courses with homework assignments that could last up to ten weeks, others are online and give students the chance to learn at their own pace. Students can also opt for private tutoring sessions as one of their prep options. 

Budget

The cost of prep courses varies. There are some free online resources that students enjoy and there are professional companies that specialize in prep courses. Courses can be expensive, some up to $2000. However, the average cost is usually around $500.

How to choose a GRE prep course

There’s a lot of test prep resources out there, but for those who are ready to commit to a prep course, here’s what you should look for: 

Look for a point improvement guarantee

If a school you want to attend requires a certain score for entrance into a graduate program, consider finding a course that guarantees a score improvement. The best score improvement guarantee that we found was seven points. 

Focus on the format

How do you prefer to learn? Whether you’re looking for in-person classes, online courses, classes with a set schedule or self-paced materials to work through – know what you want before you start researching. 

Experienced teaching

To get the most out of courses, look for ones with experienced teachers. Some courses are led by teachers who took the GRE and scored in the top 1% with other courses that don’t specify what credentials their teachers have. 

Pricing

As with any test preparation course, students must evaluate the cost. It’s not always easy to weigh the cost of the course against the materials that are offered, but after researching several options students should be able to do a fairly good comparison. 

There are some reasonable courses out there for less than $100, but there are also courses that are $1000+. 

All of the prep courses are pretty clear about their plans and pricing. Students can easily find this information on the company website. 

Trial period

One of the best ways to find a course that’s right for you is to try a few. Many of the courses offer some sort of trial period. Take some time to try a platform or two and see which ones resonate best with you. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the GRE

For those new to the world of GRE testing, here are answers to a few frequently asked questions:

How long does it take to prepare for this test?

The length of time needed to prepare for the exam varies by student. For those who can dedicate time to study, it may only take a month or two to prepare. For people with busier schedules or people who have been away from the academic world for a while, it could take up to six months. 

How much does it cost to take the GRE?

To take the GRE it costs $205.

Do students get their test scores immediately after taking the exam?

Students will see unofficial test scores for Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning after completing the test. The essay score is given later. 

When will official scores be reported?

It takes about 10-15 days for scores to become official and to be reported to the schools of your choice. 

How long are test scores good for?

GRE test scores are valid for graduate programs for five years. 

Is a calculator allowed?

The testing center allows students to use a calculator that’s on the computer. 

How can GRE scores be sent to a school?

A student can decide to have their test scores automatically sent to a list of their preferred schools on test day, or they can choose to send the scores later on themselves for a fee. 

If test scores aren’t ideal, can the test be retaken?

Yes. The GRE exam can be retaken five times in a 12-month period. 

The best GRE prep courses to consider

For students planning to take a GRE prep course, there’s a lot of choices to sift through. To help narrow the search, here’s a list of the best GRE prep courses to consider:

1. Magoosh GRE

  • Price: $179
  • Format: Video lessons 
  • Best for: Students on a budget who still want high-quality test preparation 

Magoosh is a newer platform for GRE prep, but don’t let that scare you away. The company has entered the market with an intuitive platform and GRE courses that are affordable for students.

Magoosh has an entire library of video testimonials from satisfied students on their homepage and boasts that its students score at least six points higher in both math and verbal sections compared to others. 

The platform offers interactive video lessons, practice tests, and top quality study materials. The company also offers a specific study guide that’s meant to keep students on track and motivated as they study on their own. 

Students also appreciate a tool that estimates test scores before taking the real thing. 

2. The Princeton Review GRE

  • Price: Starting at $399
  • Format: On-demand video lessons and live online classes
  • Best for: Students with a high goal score

The Princeton Review is a go-to tool in standardized test training. The GRE course has many positive reviews from students who say teachers break the questions down into easy-to-understand concepts and help them explore a wealth of online content that’s meant to raise their GRE test score. 

The company offers video-based, self-paced learning as an option, but their most popular choice is the GRE Quant 162+. This program, as the name suggests, will help a student achieve a score of 162. This score is the average score that most colleges want to see for acceptance. This package has 25 hours of scheduled online instruction, GRE practice questions, and personalized study manager. The cost is about $1,099 for this prep program. 

3. Kaplan

  • Price: Starting at $399
  • Format: On-demand video lessons, live online classes
  • Best for: Students who learn best online

Kaplan offers a combination of prep tools that are fit for any aspiring grad students. Kaplan has a long-standing reputation with test prep and many believe they have some of the most qualified teachers fueling the curriculum. 

For GRE preparation, Kaplan has both on-demand video lessons and live classes for students to attend. In addition to a wealth of instructions, study plans, and course materials, this GRE test prep course also offers seven full-length practice exams to ensure that students are training for the real thing.  

Kaplan’s most popular program starts at $399. There are also basic practice programs that are $69, but the resources are limited. 

4. examPAL GRE

  • Price: Starting at $156
  • Format: Interactive videos
  • Best for: Students on a budget 

examPAL has GRE prep courses that are highly rated by students. The platform has a 9.6 out of 10 rating on TrustPilot. The platform offers an improvement score guarantee of six points and a 30-day money-back guarantee on all packages.

This platform has a tool called PALgorythm that adapts the materials and GRE exam prep materials to a student’s needs. 

Students can get started with GRE prep for $156. Package prices do climb as students add amenities, but even the most expensive option at $389 is a competitive price compared to other options. 

5. Manhattan Prep

  • Price: Starting at $1199
  • Format: In-person, online
  • Best for: Students who top-notch in-person test prep 

Manhattan Prep offers every format of test prep. Whether you’re looking for an in-person class setting or an on-demand, self-paced course, this company has covered all of the bases. 

Manhattan Prep classes have extensive resources for students to rely on, but those resources come at a cost. Manhattan Prep is one of the most expensive GRE prep options with complete courses starting at $1199. 

There are courses that focus solely on the math section of the test as well. There aren’t many math-only options on the market, so if math is a weakness this program could be a great solution. 

To test-drive the materials that Manhattan Prep has to offer, there’s a library of free resources to browse through. It can give you a feel for the type of in-depth content that is included in the courses. 

6. The Economist GRE

  • Price: Starting at $229
  • Format: Online course materials with video tutoring
  • Best for: Mobile-first students on a budget

The first thing students see on The Economist’s website is a 7+ point improvement guarantee. The course has a wealth of test prep materials online, but what sets this particular course apart is its 1:1 tutor sessions that are incorporated into every package. Students have five private lessons with the premium plan, which costs $349 for three months. 

While tutoring is a great feature, the platform doesn’t offer any video lessons or live online classes. Instead, students work through interactive content, which is all mobile compatible. 

7. PrepScholar GRE Prep Course

  • Price: Starting at $38
  • Format: Online course materials
  • Best for: Students who want a refresher

PrepScholar guarantees that students taking their course will see a seven-point increase in their test score, or they get their money back. 

This platform has adaptive questions, mini-lessons, interactive quizzes, progress checker, and two full-length practice exams. 

The company boasts expert instructors, all of whom scored in the top 1% of the GRE.

For those interested in testing PrepScholar out, the company offers a free, five-day trial. After the trial, expect affordable prices. To access the content for a year is $38. More expensive options go up to $345.